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The good, the bad and the monarchy: why we’re still suckers for the royal fairytale | Alex von Tunzelmann

Prince Philip came to understand that the power of royalty lies in its stories – in heroes and villains, and twists and turns

There is a small community of islanders in Vanuatu who believe in the divinity of Prince Philip. The cult is thought to have emerged before Prince Philip himself visited Vanuatu in 1974: members are in mourning. Much amusement has been had in the British press over the years, gently (or not so gently) mocking this belief. Last Saturday, though, when millions of Britons watched the reverential coverage of Prince Philip’s funeral, there was cause to reflect on the beliefs that underpin royalty in our own society. Despite the technological and societal transformation of the world since Philippos of Greece was born on a dining table in Corfu in 1921, the place of British royalty in public life – and in the public imagination – is as strong as ever.

Reactions on social media to the coverage of Philip’s funeral varied. Some were empathetic and emotional, imagining the Queen’s grief as she sat alone. Others scrutinised the younger royals for drama: there was great excitement when Princes William and Harry, whose divergence in recent years has been the subject of much speculation, briefly spoke to each other. (Royal-watchers attempting to lip-read the conversation were stymied by attendees’ face masks.) Others were dismissive, making flippant comments or jokes. Royal fandom, like many fandoms, attracts an anti-fandom that is equally strong in its convictions – though not in its numbers. The BBC received 110,000 complaints from viewers who felt there was too much coverage of Philip’s death, while 13.6 million watched his funeral in the UK alone.

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